If clothing makes a statement, then Ryan Benoit's line is all about encouraging people to be their own role models.
The founder and CEO of The Positive Inception Clothing and Apparel, is busy these days, growing his business and speaking at engagements about how he turned his brand from a hobby to a full-time job.
The whole idea, he said, is to show how exciting it is to start something new.
“To give an idea. Inception means to start something new, and to start something, you have to have positive thoughts and intentions. I wanted to create something that would help people be more positive and realize their full potential, go for what they want in life and dream big,” Benoit said.
The product line has grown to include a wide line of clothing, from hoodies to shirts, sweaters and jackets, as well as accessories like hats and lanyards, all of them sporting the unique logo of a budding seed and The Positive Inception’s lettering. And all of it is geared towards encouraging people to do their best.
Even the budding seed in the logo represents progress and change. To make a seed grow, Benoit said, it needs water, light and something to nurture it. Humans are like seeds, he explained, as they need others to help them grow, live challenges and experiences to become the person they are today.
The inspiration, he said, comes from his own life experiences with cerebral palsy and needing a wheelchair. Despite his physical challenges, he didn't let them be barriers to his goals.
“No matter what your limitations, you can achieve anything you want if you believe in yourself.”
Despite his success, he never expected to become an entrepreneur, even when he started selling his clothing line while studying sports administration at Laurentian University in Sudbury.
“I was always passionate about business. This was originally a side business and a hobby, and I always loved fashion, so I put two and two together,” he said.
While designing his clothing, Benoit focused on producing something with a positive message to help people realize their full potential.
And The Positive Inception was born.
By his third year he was selling his clothing line in the school library and other places to family and friends. The brand became more popular as word got out around campus. He graduated from Laurentian in 2015 and went to Cambrian College, graduating in 2016.
By the time he graduated, Benoit had committed to Positive Inception as a full-time career, selling clothes out of a kiosk at the New Sudbury Shopping Centre. The clothing is manufactured in Sudbury and he works with local companies.
When his contract with the shopping mall was up, he moved to doing consignment sales in various businesses around the city.
Then he wanted to take it further, opening his own store in the north end of the city on Aug. 25 of last year.
Starting a business while going to school helped him stay focused. He had been struggling during the first two years, and the business helped him concentrate on his grades and gave him a goal for when he was finished.
“It also gave me something to take my mind off school, but in a weird way, it also helped with keeping my mind on finishing school as well,” Benoit said. “I didn't really know what I wanted to do after school, so I kept going with this.”
His degree also helped. He used what he learned from the business side of his education to give him a good base and knowledge to run his company.
Inside the shop, it’s not just Positive Inception’s products that are on offer. Benoit sells items from local entrepreneurs, ranging from soaps to jewelry. He said he feels he should be helping others with their business ventures because it’s important to support locally made and owned products to keep them going and also build relationships. Sudbury got behind his brand and made him a success, so he is paying it forward.
His customers, Benoit said, are the best part. Over the years he’s developed a loyal customer base, with many of them becoming friends and many more telling him the brand has helped them in many ways.
“I enjoy meeting new people, learning about their lives, hearing about what impact the brand has had on their life,” he said. “I get messages from people telling me they suffered from depression, and when they wear the clothes it makes them feel better. Or when I was having a bad day I put your hoodie on, it made me smile and it made my day that much better.”
Benoit already has an online store, which he said he will be focusing on more, as well as a new website coming in the fall. He is also in talks for partnerships to take the brand national, and possibly doing some pop-up stores.
He's also doing more speaking engagements to keep the positive message going.
Outside the business, his success and hard work have gained a lot of attention. He’s frequently a guest speaker at conferences on his experiences managing a brand and small business as someone with a disability.
Knowing he’s become a role model is humbling, he said. If he can help someone, it’s worth it.
“My favourite part of having this brand is knowing I have a platform to give people a different perspective on life, and be a role model for kids with disabilities to show them they can achieve anything they want.”